Is Arctic a true story? Detailing the survival film’s inspiration

Arctic 2018

The film is a distressing watch of a barely alive Overgård waiting to be rescued by the civilization only to have his hopes dashed every time. Mads Mikkelsen described the 19-day shoot in Iceland as the most difficult and brutal filming process of his entire career, saying:

“It was an incredible journey. It felt like a rock ’n’ roll project, ‘We have a camera, let’s do it.’ It was a little like my first film, and it’s nice to have that feeling at age fifty-something,”

Arctic is a fictional story originally set on Mars but the location was later changed due to similarities with The Martian

While Arctic did not shy away from realistically portraying the bleak outlook of a lone survivor’s uncertain life in the wilderness, it is not based on a true story.

The film’s director and writer, Joe Penna, was inspired to draft a script for a survival film after coming across an image of Mars. It was originally set in the “desolate-looking” and “half-terraformed” landscape of the foreign planet.

However, Penna and co-writer Ryan Morrison were compelled to revise the location after coming across Matt Damon’s 2015 film The Martian which coincidentally had the same setting. Penna explained:

“Myself and my writing partner Ryan wrote a screenplay [centered on Mars] and took it to our agents. My agent said, ‘This is great, but maybe go on YouTube right now and check out a trailer for The Martian!’ So, we ended up changing the location to the Arctic, with the same exact story.”

Recreating the environment on Mars would have taken advanced technical information and support as opposed to the “ascetic approach” taken for the final film. Moreover, it was Penna’s first directorial venture in feature films after a thriving career as a YouTuber.

“The story seemed to be encumbered by the technicalities of survival in an oxygen-deprived atmosphere. So, we decided instead to pit our protagonist against the cold, in the harshest survivable environment on Earth: The Arctic Circle,” said Penna.

The little to no backstory of Mikkelsen’s character and the lack of dialogue in the film was an intentional creative decision. Penna and Morrison desired to set it apart from other survival films and keep the inconsequential details as minimal as possible without sugarcoating them.

They prepped for the Arctic by watching similar films in the genre such as Cast Away, 127 Hours, and The Red Turtle.